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"...romance as a pop-culture entity–fucked me up pretty severely." - Romance Is Damaging?

I saw this post courtesy of RRRJessica this morning, and I have to say, it gave me food for thought, as well as pissed me off a tad. There’s nothing I hate more than people who bang on about feminism, whilst trying to minimise my right to choose.

The blogger writes:

…I’ve been reading Dear Author. This is my Big Chance granted to the romance genre: I wanted to see if my prejudices against it were unfounded. While I don’t have exact statistics to wave in anyone’s face, I think it’s no distortion of the truth to point out that most of the content discussed and reviewed on Dear Author is a matter strictly white and middle-class and western–American mostly, with a daub here and there of the Irish or Scottish to liven things with a little exotica; sometimes books about characters of color will be reviewed, but those are overwhelmingly books written by white people. A limited, vanishingly small quantity of lesbian material is reviewed once in a blue moon (the latest under this tag? May 2011). M/M is reviewed now and again, but only those with reality distortion fields on will insist M/M as a genre is about the advocacy of gay rights.

[…]

I imagine a lot of us grew up internalizing homophobia to hell and back. I imagine a lot of us didn’t even know we were in the closet, because it’s easy to believe you are straight when everyone is straight and tells you it’s the normal thing to be. Haruka and Michiru weren’t enough to combat everything else; neither were Anthy and Utena. I thought yuri manga was dirty (although, to be sure, I was also repulsed by yaoi) and I avoided it like the plague.

So, I don’t know about other queer women, but to me the prevalence of romance–not as a genre by itself, but romance as a pop-culture entity–fucked me up pretty severely. I didn’t grow up on romance exactly, but I did consume my share of shoujo manga. I consumed my share, later, of urban fantasy. You and I know this shit is everywhere. The heteronormative hegemony. The automatic recoiling at any mention of the gay. It’s not to be pinned onto any one genre, any one category, anyone form of media.

But if you’re telling me that romance is categorically feminist, you’re contributing to this large damage in an insidious, silencing way. The proponents of romance-is-feminist school of thought like to pass such fiction off as inherently progressive because it is written mostly by women and targets women as an audience: it pushes the idea that reading these books is liberating and sex-positive and, what’s more, reading them is good for you. Because feminism! Liberation from the yoke of repression and sexual dissatisfaction!

Tell me this and I’ll kick you in the fucking teeth.  (more…)

What Book First Led You To Romance?

Yesterday, myself, Maili, DA Jane, and a few others were having a debate about iconic romance books. The books that formed the basis of the romance that we read today, for example Anne Rice’s vampire books, Linda Howard’s Mackenzie’s Mountain, (love, love, LOVE that book) Katherine Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower, Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm etc, etc.

Dear Author is going to be doing a series where canonical romance books are celebrated, but that’s not what I really wanted to talk about. Maili and I went back and forth on whether or not the books that started you off down the romance path was integral to the evolution of the romance book. I said it was, but I guess as there are several paths that led us to our love of romance today, including films like Gone with the Wind, I guess she was right:)

Anyway, I want to know what book or film led you down the romance path. I’m assuming that we all didn’t just grab a Mills & Book or a Silhouette Desire straight away?

Well mine was Anne of Green Gables. Yeah, yeah, I know it wasn’t a romance in the traditional sense, but I loved the connection between Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley, although their romantic relationship didn’t truly begin until Anne of The Island.

I think I mostly enjoyed the unrequited love aspect of it. We all knew that Anne must have secretly liked Gilbert or she wouldn’t have been so mad at him when he made fun of her hair, but my little feminist heart secretly enjoyed Anne turning her nose up at Gilbert every time he made an effort to make up with her.

Anyway, enough of me prattling on, what book or indeed film, led you to appreciate the romance novel?

This is a really interesting interview featuring Roger Sanderson aka Gill Sanderson, and Penny Jordan, both of them, Mills and Boon authors.

I was quite surprised to learn that Gill Sanderson is actually a man. Apparently, the only man who writes for Mills and Boon. He specialises in medical romance. Go Roger.

It was also interesting to learn that despite selling well over 85 million books world-wide, Penny has never actually seen anybody reading her books in public.

Who says that shame in romance-reading is a thing of the past?

HelenKay has an interesting link to some bint who thinks that romance books are harmful because they make us stoopid women long for the stereotypical romance hero in our real lives, plus let’s face it, most romance is porn for women anyway, and we’ve all seen the effects that watching porn has on men, haven’t we?…erm or something like that.

For the sake of clarity (you guys know I’m all about clarity right?) here’s what she actually wrote:

Yeah, so basically she’s saying that most women who read romances will eventually find their real lives, and their real life partners dull in comparison to the dashing dukes, and devilishly handsome heroes, that most romance books eschew.

I’m sure it wont surprise you to learn that this columnist is a right-winger. They always have the best ideas don’t they? *g*

Now, my initial reaction to the column was, what the fuck is this bitch talking about? But upon further contemplation, I wondered if she actually had a point?

No, not the whole ‘harmful’ crap, because Lord knows, there are certainly worse things out there than reading romance, for instance things like a somebody stabbing a two year old child to death, that kinda shit.

No, I’m wondering if, as romance readers, we are looking at our husbands and expecting them to be like the heroes that we love to read about.

I must admit, it’s never occurred to me to wish that TTG would do something as romantic as carry round my button in his coat as a reminder of when we met. Apart from the inconvenience of having a button knackering up my washing machine, I’m not sure if the reality is as romantic as it seems when we read it in La Nora’s books.

Do we secretly wish that our husbands could be as alpha as some of the heroes that we read about?

Do we wish that our significant others would wake up without the nastiness that is morning breath?

Do we secretly wish that our S.O’s would walk round with perpetual hard-ons because they’re thinking of us all the time?

Do we also wish that our S.O had a twelve inch dick, and was built like a brick shithouse? Seriously girls, having a guy with a dick that big can be a real pain in the arse. *g*

Personally, if my hubby started demanding sex ten times a day, I’d divorce his ass.

Flowers are lovely, but if he ever sent me a room full of the stuff, I’d demand to see the bill, then proceed to beat him over the head with my hardback copy of Nora’s Born In Death, for wasting all that money, when I could have gone out and bought lots of nice clothes instead.

If TTG ever threw me to the ground, and started trying to have his wicked way with me whilst somebody was shooting at us, I’d punch him in the nose and tell him to get a grip.

In short, on paper, there can be no denying the appeal, but would we really want our husbands to be perfect little Ken-dolls, with hard abs, and tight asses, who can make us orgasm during penetrative sex, even without the benefit of foreplay?

Hmmmm… what was my point again? *g*